Did you know that emotions can be stored in muscles? Emotional Muscle Memory is the concept of emotions from previous experiences that are stored in your body. As these painful emotions get trapped on a cellular level, it can often lead to physical pain that can significantly affect the way we move and live.
“Muscle has memory: the body knows things the mind will not admit.” – Louise Doughty
We have countless memories stored in our brains which we can remember whenever we want. We can easily remember faces, names, places, sights, sounds, smell and other sensory experiences.
However, with time these memories tend to fade and become weaker as we make new memories from new experiences. But oftentimes, these emotional memories live in our body through behavioral patterns and physical sensations. Your body never forgets.
Important moments can leave physiological traces in our body particularly when you experience excessive stress or trauma that puts your body in the fight, flight or freeze mode.
These emotional memories stored in the muscle can resurface under different circumstances and make you feel pain and aches physically. Hence, it is crucial to release these bad memories and move ahead in life.
We are emotional creatures
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” – Sigmund Freud
We are designed to express our emotions openly and freely. However, when we experience negative emotions, we usually keep them to ourselves or repress them. This can leave an imprint on your body for a long time.
Emotions can be experienced physically.
We need to release certain feelings like we flush out unwanted chemicals and toxins from our bodies.
When you suppress an emotion and don’t fully express it, it can become embodied. These emotions get trapped in your physical body due to the motor component. It means when we avoid or suppress certain emotions, they produce a micro-muscular activation to which our bodies instantly respond. This is why tension and pain is often stored in specific areas of the body where an expression originated but was never expressed nor materialized.
To put it neurologically, the anterior cingulate, which is the part of the brain which controls emotions, is located beside the premotor area. As a result, when an emotion is processed, your brain instantaneously starts to create a physical response in your body. When the premotor area and the motor cortex are connected, several muscles are activated which enable you to express your feelings.
How emotions are stored in the body
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” – Brene Brown
Emotions are experienced in the body as much as it is experienced in the mind. Emotional experiences can trigger activation in the autonomic nervous system. Hence, emotions riddled with stress and anxiety can make your muscles get tight to fight or escape a threat.
When this stress is caused as a result of a traumatic experience, or when this experience is persistent, then your physical body will get drowned in stress hormones that get trapped in your cells. This can lead to chronic muscle tension and aches that may last for a long time. Even though your emotionally tight muscles may relax after months or years, certain feelings can flood your system and reactivate the tightness in the muscles.
Releasing trapped emotions from your body
“The more relaxed the muscles are, the more energy can flow through the body.” – Bruce Lee
Just because your body has some negative emotions stored in the cells doesn’t mean you have to live with the pain trapped inside you. Traumatic experiences don’t need to last a lifetime. You can manage your emotional muscle memory and release certain stored emotions to live a happier healthier life.
You need to remember that the solution to repression is expression. You need to process emotional distress and express your emotions through your mind and body in a healthy way.
Here are some powerful tools that can help you dissolve trapped muscle memory and release muscle tension when you feel emotionally triggered.
1. Give yourself permission
You must have your own permission to feel and express your innermost emotion. Feeling is the key to healing. Most of the time, we suppress our feelings as we believe we are not allowed to feel certain emotions like anger, anxiety and depression. Due to social pressure, we often feel compelled to feel happy and act nicely and be ‘strong’. So we refuse to face our emotional pain as crying is considered a sign of weakness, albeit wrongly.